They’re still questioning Chloe when the officer tells Beca she’s free to go, so she heads over to the pickup truck and hops up to sit on the dropped tailgate, swinging her legs and watching the bomb squad finish packing their gear. It’s been a nonstop whirlwind the last few days, but now it’s quiet. The girls are all spread out, being questioned or tended to by EMTs. The building is still being emptied of Kommissar’s men and an impressive amount of diamonds and fish. There are news crews being held at bay atop the hill, but Beca can still see camera flashes out of the corner of her eye. Man, her boss is gonna get a kick out of this one.
But even with the flashing lights and the officers and federal agents calling to each other, it is quiet. And it leaves Beca far too much time to think about Chloe’s answer.
Because she’d said yes. Oh my god, she said yes. Which, like, is totally the answer Beca wanted. But she can barely get over her own asking, because that’s insane enough. But Chloe had said yes. Lying in the grass, blood on her hands and shirt, smile wider than Beca’s ever seen it, and a bomb in the building behind them.
Which is really what’s giving Beca pause. Because what if Chloe had just said yes because they had almost died like twenty times today? She knew that wasn’t why she’d asked. She’d asked because when Stacie joked about it, it didn’t feel like a joke. It felt right. It felt good. And when Chloe had said yes, her entire insides had gone crazy, playing musical chairs all around her ribcage. So, shocking as it is, she knows she meant it. But did Chloe?
She’s spared going over the whole thing again by Agent Hollis coming over from where EMTs are tending to Mel and the dark-haired agent. “Miss Mitchell?”
Agent Hollis extends a hand. “I just wanted to say good work in there. I’m sorry we didn’t arrive sooner so you didn’t have to go through that.”
Beca shrugs, shaking her hand quickly. “I mean, I can probably skip anger management for a couple classes so. That’s nice.” Agent Hollis laughs. “How’s your partner?” She points to her own forehead.
“Oh, Carm’s fine.” Agent Hollis grins. “It’ll take more than being slammed into a car door to break that hard head, let me tell ya!” She glances back and Beca catches the dark-haired agent snapping something at the EMT trying press gauze to her head, her teeth bared. Agent Hollis sucks in a quick breath. “I better go. Nice to meet you. And killer swing!”
She hurries off, but Beca isn’t alone long. Aubrey jumps up beside her, their knees bumping lightly. She doesn’t look at Beca, eyes still on Jesse, who is talking with Aunt Dana and a tall blonde in a suit, her hair in a tight bun. Beca nudges her with her knee. “Control Freak.”
Aubrey’s lips twitch up. “Bitchy.”
“Glad you made it out alive. And in one piece. I was totally expecting your finger in the mail.”
“Chloe’s right. You need to stop watching so much ID.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out through her nose. She’s tense and Beca leans back on her hands, waiting for her to continue. “They found my father, it seems. He was on his way here and they intercepted him barely minutes after I told them what I knew.”
She’d heard most of Aubrey’s statement while she was being checked over by a way too enthusiastic EMT. She nods. “Sorry, dude. Dads suck sometimes.”
Aubrey doesn’t reply, simply crosses her ankles over each other and stares down at her lap.
The silence is a little uncomfortable, so Beca casts around for something to break it. “Where’s Stacie when you actually want a good Daddy joke?”
Aubrey snorts and finally turns to look at her, smiling. “I’m not surprised the two of you are friends. You’re both inappropriate and immature.”
Beca grins. “That’s, like, a direct quote from one of my old teachers, dude.”
“Well, inappropriate and immature or not,” Aubrey pauses, chewing the inside of her cheeks for a moment. “I came over here to ask you a question.”
“Shoot.” Beca widens her eyes dramatically. “Wait, don’t shoot. I’ve had enough gun stuff today.”
“Oh my god, never mind, I’ll just--”
“No, dude, ask me.”
“No, dude, you’re being ridiculous. You don’t--”
“Aubrey, ask me the damn question, I swear--”
“Fine.” Aubrey huffs, crossing her arms. “I always said that when I got married, I would have all of my Bellas up there with me. And, after the events of the last few days, I find that when I think of the Bellas…” Beca’s too busy trying not to laugh at Aubrey’s incredibly formal speech to realize where she’s going with this. “I find you are included. In the Bellas, I mean.”
Beca blinks. “Dude, what?”
“Don’t make me repeat myself, Mitchell.” Aubrey fidgets in place, rolling her eyes. “You helped save my life, so will you walk in my damn wedding?”
She looks out over the police cars and FBI Suburbans, watching Chloe get her wrists checked out on the back of an ambulance while she chats with an officer. “Do I have to wear a dress?”
“Of course not. Cynthia Rose isn’t either.” Aubrey hesitates. “And I haven’t spoken with Jesse just yet, but I’m sure he won’t mind moving the wedding up. Without my father to wait for, there’s no reason to hold off.” Beca looks up in time to catch the soft smile that slides onto her face. “I’m ready to be married to him now. That’s all I thought about the entire time I was in there alone. That I hadn’t gotten to say ‘I do’ to him yet.”
It’s soft and sincere and makes Beca feel weird as fuck. All warm and gooey and gross. So she does what she does best. Smirks and says, “That’s gay.”
Aubrey shoves her clean off the tailgate.
She’s sitting on the ground, still laughing when Lilly and Jesse approach. Lilly trots over and rolls right into the gravel, laying her head on Beca’s ankle and dragging her fingers through the rocks beneath them. Beca tries not to move. She looks up at Jesse and Aubrey. “Should I, like, pet her? I don’t know.”
“I wouldn’t,” they say together.
Jesse smiles and drops his open hand into Aubrey’s lap. She wraps both hands around it, lifting it to her lips to kiss his knuckles. Beca goes back to watching Lilly draw designs in the gravel.
“Hey, Bec.” Jesse tears his eyes from Aubrey’s face with what looks like incredible difficulty. “Nice hit earlier. All those years of practice with me paid off, it looks like.”
She laughs. “Thanks for not actually throwing the detonator at me.” Granted, the plain, gray rock had been almost all the way to her before she’d realized what it was, but she’d been immensely relieved as she swung. Because if it had been the detonator, knowing their luck, she would have hit right on the button and blown them all sky high.
“Yeah, they took it from me when they questioned me. Which sucks. I was totally gonna put it in a shadow box on the wall or something.” He pouts a little and Aubrey wraps her arms around his, resting her chin on his shoulder.
There’s a commotion across the parking lot as a couple EMTs try to load Jesse’s dick cousin into an ambulance. The grin that spreads across Beca’s lips is probably a little feral, but she doesn’t bother hiding it as she rolls to her feet. Lilly rolls with her, like she knew exactly where they were going, and follows.
“Beca!” Jesse calls. “Wait, I was gonna ask you to walk in my wedding, since Tom’s out!”
Without stopping, she spins to face him and grimaces apologetically. “Your lady already snatched me, Snitchson. Sorry!”
Jesse gasps, too dramatic to actually be affronted, and rounds on Aubrey, who just laughs.
She hurries up to the stretcher they’ve got Tom handcuffed to. He’s sitting all the way up, head tilted forward, blood dried across his chin and chest. His face is swollen nearly twice its normal size, his lips crooked to the side. There’s a large strip of gauze wrapped around his jaw and up to the top of his head and Beca’s thrilled to find that whoever put it there has tied a large, poofy bow on top. “Oooh, that looks painful.”
“Broken jaw, we’re pretty sure,” one of the EMTs says. “We need to get him to the hospital quick. Excuse me.” He pushes past her and Beca lets him, nodding.
“Shit, Tom. But hey, don’t worry. You’re not one of those guys that needs a perfect jawline to really be happy, you know?” She pats his leg and his glare nearly burns her skin. “Trust me.”
Tom suddenly launches himself forward, growling through his bloody teeth, but the EMTs and his handcuffs keep him at bay. Beca winks and saunters away, Lilly happily skipping along behind, shooting an imaginary gun at him.
Stacie pulls up with the van a few seconds after the ambulance pulls away and she’s out of it quickly, glancing around. Beca smirks and points to one of the cop cars where Emily is nervously ringing her hands and listening to Jessica talk to an officer. Stacie nods and rushes past her to sweep Emily into her arms. Beca thinks about going over to eavesdrop or tease them, but then Chloe’s standing from the bumper of the other ambulance and heading toward her at a power walk speed.
So Beca stays where she is and lets Chloe close the distance between them. And close it she does, because Chloe doesn’t stop until they’re chest to chest and she can wrap her hands around the back of Beca’s neck.
Chloe grins, nose crinkling. “I love you.” Her grip tightens a little. “I’m in love with you, Beca Mitchell. Nothing less. And I think I have been for a while.”
All those anxiety-riddled questions from earlier that have been sitting at the base of her skull go up in flames. Chloe said yes. Chloe loves her. Chloe’s in love with her. She purses her lips to keep from grinning. “Yeah, I kinda got that.” She laughs as Chloe pulls back a hand to jab her in the ribs. “I love you too, dude.” It feels weird saying it, because it doesn’t actually feel weird at all. It’s not a phrase she uses often, about anything or anyone. “I’m in love with you.” She can feel her ears burning and it’s confirmed when Chloe reaches up to trail a finger around the shell of one of them.
“We have a lot to talk about,” she whispers and Beca nods.
“Tonight.” Chloe slips both hands back into her hair and tugs her closer. “I love you.”
Beca groans, even though her chest is filled with butterflies and her smile is sort of unstoppable. “Is this like a thing we do now?”
“I love you,” Chloe repeats against her lips.
Beca’s breath catches and she can’t bring herself to tease any longer. “I love you too, Chloe.”
Chloe kisses her, arms sliding around her shoulders to hold her tight. Beca grips at her hips, unsure the ground’s even still beneath them as they sway a little.
Fat Amy drives them all back to the Beale house at a much slower pace than she got them to the market. That might have something to do with the FBI vehicle following them with the rest of their people, but it could also be the exhaustion that seems to be setting in for everyone. Emily is fast asleep, curled into Stacie’s side as she traces absent patterns across Emily’s back. Jessica’s head is laid back on the seat and she hasn’t moved since they took off. Ashley’s slumped in the passenger seat. Beca thinks Lilly’s asleep in the seat where Cynthia Rose had been riding before, but every now and then she lifts her hands and rubs them together, so she’s not sure.
Chloe is snuggled close, breath tickling Beca’s neck as she dozes off and on, stirring occasionally to stroke her hand around the curve of Beca’s bicep or to place a soft kiss beneath her jaw. And it’s ridiculously sweet and innocent and everything Beca’s never thought of associating with. But now she just kind of wishes Amy would drive slower. For just another few minutes like this.
“You always smell like lavender,” Chloe whispers just as the Beale house comes into view.
“You smell like strawberries,” Beca whispers back. “And fish guts.”
Chloe chuckles as she turns her face into Beca’s neck, but then suddenly she sinks her teeth into the soft skin there and Beca yelps.
Stacie throws her a glare over Emily’s head.
“Dude, she bit me!”
“Well, keep your sex noises down for now, okay?”
Amy parks and they clamber out, Beca dodging Chloe’s hands and laughter as she jogs for the porch steps. Before she can get past the first one, Mamma Beale comes bursting through the door and sweeps her into a hug so tight she sees stars.
“Oh my god,” Mamma Beale groans into her hair. “My babies. You’re all okay. Come here, all of you.” Beca’s left gasping for the breath that was knocked from her as Mamma Beale grabs the next nearest Bella and gives them the same treatment. When she reaches Chloe, she holds on longer, tighter. “My Chloe,” she says so reverently that Beca looks away to give them a moment.
Stacie drops an arm around her shoulders and leads her into the house. “They’re gonna be a little bit. Come on. I need food.”
“Where’s Eli?” Beca looks around. She’d expected him to at least be waiting for them. Aunt Dana had called ahead to let Mamma Beale know they were all safe and on their way.
Lew, emerging from the kitchen with Seth in tow, points to the stairs. “In his room. He’s pretty upset that you guys went to rescue Aubrey without him, I think.” With a wide grin, he crushes her to him and Beca thinks, mildly, that the Beales must be related to boa constrictors or something. Because they all hug like this.
Seth, thankfully, does not hug her, because he’s too busy greeting Stacie. Emily’s wearing an honest to god smirk and Beca coughs to hide her laughter as she heads for the stairs. There are too many people in the living room now, crowded around and hugging and talking. She thinks Eli might have the right idea.
He’s sitting at his desk when she stops in the doorway, fitting a piece into a nearly finished Lego model of a Ferris Wheel. “Hey, Slugger.”
His head pops up and his eyes widen, but he doesn’t get up. “Oh. Hey.”
“No hug?” She pushes off the threshold with a bit of difficulty. Her body is tired. He closes one eye when she lays the back of her fingers across his forehead. “You sick or something, dude?”
“No.” He waves her hand away, picking up another piece from the desktop.
“Your sister’s downstairs. Your brother too.” He just nods, so she continues. “I’m sure they wanna see you. It’s been a rough day.”
“Yeah, I heard.” He doesn’t look at her.
Beca sighs and takes a seat on the edge of his bed, stretching her legs out. She’s never been good with kids and Eli’s pretty much the opposite of her as a child. But she thinks she knows what this is. She’d treated her dad the same way when her mother first started going to the hospital and she couldn’t be there all the time like he was. “Eli. Look at me.” He does, after finishing with the piece he was working on. But his gaze flits over her shoulder nearly as soon as he does and she lifts an eyebrow, waiting for him to look at her again. “You couldn’t have done anything out there, kid.”
And she knows she was right, because his eyes immediately fill with tears that he stubbornly tries to blink away. He opens his mouth once, twice. Closes it and purses his lips, tilting his head to blink at the ceiling. Then, shaking his head, he signs, I wanted to help.
I know, she answers. “But you couldn’t have done anything there. We needed you here.” It’s an answer she always hated hearing, even though it made her feel less guilty for not spending nights at the hospital. So she’s not surprised when Eli frowns, eyes narrowing. She sighs deeply. “I wouldn’t have trusted anybody else to keep an eye on Mamma Beale. And Gran? Can you imagine if she’d been left alone, dude?” She widens her eyes and his lips twitch a little. “We wouldn’t have had a house to come back to.”
“She’s not that bad,” he insists quietly.
Beca kicks his chair lightly, spinning him. “Not with you watching her.”
He lets himself spin completely around, then catches her leg with his feet to stop himself. “She did catch the kitchen on fire one time while helping me with homework.”
Beca laughs. “What kinda homework leads to fire?”
She snorts and a grin spreads across his face too quick to suppress. She hops up and ruffles his hair. “Come on, Slugger. Chloe’s gonna want to glomp you.”
Chloe does indeed glomp him. And Beca. And Aubrey. And Gran. And Seth, who hisses like a cat, but cannot resist. She only stops when she catches Beca standing off to the side, wrapped in Fat Amy’s arms and grimacing. With whatever weird Chloe magic she uses, she seems to sense that Beca is getting a little claustrophobic and sweeps in to rescue her.
“Nap!” she calls over the ruckus. “I think we all need showers and naps.”
“Good idea!” Mamma Beale calls, immediately bustling into action. All 4’11 of her starts herding girls into rooms. “Aubrey, Jesse, you can’t go back to your house just yet, can you? Not with all the fuss going on there. You take one of the rooms upstairs. Go on. I’ll get some clothes for you. Let’s go, Bellas! Dana, get dinner started!”
“What? Cory, I need to shower too--”
“Excuse me, Miss FBI agent, I thought--”
Chloe tugs Beca through the kitchen and out the back door before they can really get going. She’s giggling as they hurry across the yard, her hand still warm in Beca’s own. “Aunt Dana is totes getting grounded.”
“I think we all are, once your mom gets over her happiness that we're alive.”
Chloe lets them into the garage and hurries for the stairs, calling, “Dibs on the shower!” Beca laughs, shutting and locking the door behind them. But when she turns around, Chloe is not up the stairs, but right in Beca’s face, leaning in to place a hand on the door on either side of her. “Unless you wanna join me?”
It’s hard to look anywhere besides the teeth sunk into Chloe’s lower lip, but Beca forces her gaze up to blue eyes. “Yeaaaah, no, you still smell like fish. No sexy showers for you.”
“Every shower I’m in is sexy, Mitchell.” Chloe winks and it’s sort of ridiculous that this girl looks semi-exhausted with the smudged makeup in the corners of her eyes and her hair a tangled mess on her head, and smells horrid, but she’s still the sexiest thing Beca’s ever seen. Chloe pushes off the door and Beca catches herself as her body automatically tries to follow. Instead, she stays where she is as Chloe hops up the stairs two at a time. Only once she hears the water running does she move.
There’s a bone-deep ache in her legs and she’s pretty sure she pulled a muscle with that swing earlier. It’s been many years since she even held a bat, but she’s still got it. She smirks as she toes off her boots and drops them beside the mini-fridge. Her back twinges a bit as she turns and she winces. It’s been such a long day. Has it only been a day? She pulls out her phone and checks the time. It’s barely been half a day. And she has a ton of emails and missed calls from work. Shit.
She throws the phone on the desk. It can wait until she’s napped and eaten something. It’s not like they can fire her. At least she’s pretty sure there’s a law somewhere that says they can’t fire an employee for missing work calls while they were facing off against diamond-smuggling Germans and their henchmen in a fish market. Right? ...She’ll ask Stacie later.
Her jeans are covered in dirt and blood, because she’d let Chloe wipe her hands off on them earlier. So she stays standing in the center of the room, slowly stretching out every throbbing muscle and listening to Chloe hum in the shower.
Chloe. Her girlfriend? Fiancee? Oh god, what does she call her now? They were fake girlfriends yesterday but now Chloe’s said yes so… But were they really fake? It didn’t feel like it. It hasn't since the beginning. Since the moment Chloe had the idea, it’s been so easy. So simple. So completely the same as normal, except now she’s allowed to kiss Chloe. Hold her hand. Press her against a wall and flirt with her. Right?
“You look pensive.” Chloe’s standing in the bathroom doorway, tying her wet hair up in a messy bun, and Beca realizes she’s probably been zoned out for a while. That’s the last logical thing Beca’s brain supplies, however, because Chloe is wearing only a towel and water drops. Beca forces her mouth shut, but Chloe’s already smirking as she crosses the room, hips swaying more than Beca thinks is normal. She can’t be sure because Chloe wastes no time in stepping up to her. Chest to chest. Close enough to smell strawberry and mint toothpaste.
Beca suddenly feels even dirtier than before. “Sorry. Was zoning out.”
Chloe just smiles, blue eyes trailing lazily down Beca’s face to her lips.
Beca’s ears burn and she opens her mouth to say anything except what she does say. “Are we moving too fast?”
Chloe’s gaze flickers back up and holds hers. Nothing else on her face changes and it calms the churning in Beca’s chest enough that she can speak around it.
“I mean, we were fake girlfriends yesterday. But then I asked you to marry me, which, like, I totally would be, uh. Cool...with...happening.” Chloe’s smile grows the more Beca rambles and she can feel her own lips doing the same. “But, like, we were in the middle of World War Bellas and I don’t know, maybe you weren’t thinking clearly and should take some time to think about it? Or I should change the question to, ‘Do you even wanna date me, maybe?’ or--”
Chloe captures her lips mid-sentence and everything else Beca had been ready to say melts away. Her skin is still damp--warm and soft. Something akin to lava fills the spaces between Beca’s ribs and drips down into her stomach, burning everything in its path, when Chloe catches Beca’s lower lip with her teeth and pulls a startled, barely-strangled moan from her. “Mmmm,” Chloe hums, releasing her, but not moving away. “Yes, I want to date you. Yes, I want to marry you. Yes, we’re doing this all out of order. So, listen to me, Beca.” Her words have a vague haze around them that tastes something like Chloe’s kiss, but Beca forces herself to take in every word as they’re breathed against her lips. “We’re not getting married tomorrow, okay? Just because I said yes? It doesn’t have to mean anything until we want it to. It will be our secret until we’ve done all the things we need to catch up on. Like…” She presses a firm kiss to Beca’s lips. “Our first date...” She tilts her head and this time kisses just the corner of Beca’s mouth. “Our second date…” Her stomach flips right over as Chloe leans forward and her breath fills Beca’s ear. “Our third date…” Chloe’s hand, which Beca hadn’t even noticed was moving, lands on her neck, palm flush with her skin. And then it slides down and under the collar of her shirt and Beca’s lungs completely quit working, despite her racing heart trying to keep them going. “Everything that usually happens after a third date…” Chloe’s teeth catch one of Beca’s earrings and her knees go weak. She grabs Chloe’s hips to keep from taking them both to the floor, but the towel is warm and damp too and it does nothing to distract from Chloe’s mouth.
Which is suddenly no longer near her and the towel slips from her hands as she opens her eyes, unsure when she even closed them.
Chloe is smiling so wide that it’s nearly swallowing her face. “Go take a shower, Becs. We’ve only got a little time to nap before dinner, I’m sure.” And then she pads away to find clothes, turning her back on Beca like she hadn’t just been seducing her.
Growling, Beca snatches some clothes from her drawer, ignoring Chloe’s quiet humming beside her. “It’ll have to be a cold shower,” she grumbles as she stomps past. She knows she’s only pretending to be angry because it’s making Chloe smile so widely. It’s not anger bubbling under her skin and tingling in her fingers.
“Lucky I used up all the hot water already, isn’t it?” Chloe has the audacity to wink as Beca’s slamming the door in her face. Her laugh echoes through it and Beca smiles, shaking her head.